Is Geert Wilders’ trial about Free Speech?

On October 4th, Geert Wilders went on trial for inciting racial hatred against Muslims. The trial will determine if Wilders’ comments actually incite discrimination against Muslims, which is against Dutch law. If convicted, he faces up to 16 months in jail or $10,000 in fines.

Wilders is known for his often inflammatory remarks against immigrants, many of whom are Muslims, and Islam. His comments include calling the Qur’an a “facist book” and comparing it to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, referring to the hijab as “head rags” and proposing a headscarf tax, calling for a curbing of immigration from non-Western countries and a ban of the burqa. He has also said that the Judeo-Christian culture is inherently better than the “retarded Islamic culture”. Continue reading

Al-Madrasa: A Center for Tolerance

With all the controversy over Cordoba House in New York, many have forgotten that its name stems from Al-Andalus (Andalusia) or Muslim Spain, an excellent example of interfaith tolerance and harmony. Al-Madrasa or The Faculty of Andalusian Studies located in Alquería de Rosales, Spain, is a center that encourages that spirit of tolerance by opening its doors to those of any faith.

Al-Madrasa is a center for for the study of Muslim Culture and Andalusian history founded 17 years ago by Professor Abdus Samad Antonio Romero, a Sufi Muslim convert, and his wife. In addition to being a center for Islamic study, Al-Madrasa hosts a summer program for children from 8-16 years old. In this program, children study Arabic, learn to make Andulusian ceramics, go swimming, and participate in many other activities that you would find in any summer camp. The difference, however, with Al-Madrasa is that, while its facilities include a mosque and the call to prayer is heard 5 times a day, it also encourages children from other faith traditions to participate. The purpose of Al-Madrasa is to engender positive dialogue between different traditions.

Initiatives like Al-Madrasa are a dire necessity. To have people meet, eat together, and share positive activities creates a more open atmosphere to examine differences and to find points of commonality.  Moreover, a place like Al-Madrasa, will do much to demonstrate that Muslims in Western nations are invested in their countries and like their fellow citizens want to live together peacefully.

Have you heard of Al-Madrasa? Do you think initiatives like this can work to create tolerance? Does something like Al-Madrasa exist in the United States? Can it help to ease tensions? Please share your comments below.

Islam in Europe

reflections_on_the_revolution_in_europeA few weeks back, I reviewed the “To the Best of Our Knowledge” show “Reclaiming Islam” on which Christopher Caldwell discussed his most recent book, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West. What Caldwell said during the short segment was not entirely representative of the larger message in the book. However, my own reading of his argument was incredibly skewed and, well, wrong. On Thursday, August 13th, Christopher Caldwell joined Here on Earth to talk in more depth about the book and the issue of Muslims in Europe. In preparation for the show, I had a chance to read the book and understand his argument more fully. Continue reading